Allison Adato had been covering celebrity chefs for People magazine for a while when she noticed her jeans were getting a little snug because of a work calendar packed with food festivals, restaurant openings and other dining events.
At the same time, Adato realized that not all the chefs she was covering were overweight. Many were trim despite being surrounded by rich, tantalizing diet-busting food all day long. A quest for the answers to how those chefs did it led to Adato’s book, “Smart Chefs Stay Slim: Lessons in Eating and Living from America’s Best Chefs.” The book includes more than 50 recipes from chefs like Thomas Keller and Eric Ripert.
Adato, who is now a senior editor at People magazine, will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill with chef Andrea Reusing, who also is featured in the book.
Over email, Adato, who lives in New York, answered a few questions about the book.
Q: Where did the idea for the book come from? The idea to write the book came from my asking, ‘How do the pros in this field handle this puzzle?’ It was a question I heard from a lot of people when they learned I was writing about chefs they had seen on television: ‘Why is she so thin?’ or ‘If I had his job, I’d be as big as a barn.’ or ‘What’s his secret?’
So I set about asking some of the best chefs in the country who had also managed to either keep in shape or to lose a lot of weight, even as they continued working with the rich, wonderful food they feed us. People like Cat Cora, Thomas Keller, Rick Bayless and Michelle Bernstein shared their stories. As I learned how they ate on the job or at home with their families, the way I was eating and cooking also evolved.
Q: How did your cooking evolve? I cook at home more often and rely less on take-out. I make sure to cook meals that will appeal to my husband and 10-year-old son, but also suit the way I want to eat too. For me the biggest lesson was eating only the food you love – not contorting your diet to include bland foods that you think will help you lose weight…. Chefs don’t cook at home the way they do at work, so I was happy to discover that the recipes they shared with me were very easy. What they do is pack food with a lot of flavor so that it satisfies.
Q: And what about eating healthy at restaurants? They also had great tips about eating out since, as chefs and frequent diners, they consider the question from both sides of the plate. I loved hearing how Tom Colicchio will sometimes order only appetizers, or how Naomi Pomeroy will sometimes take home leftovers. If chefs do it, it is definitely OK for us to do so.